HSCI 3463: Cold War Science

Research Essay #1

Write an essay of 1250 words (5 pages) on ONE of the following topics. You may use class notes and assigned readings in writing your answer, but you are strongly encouraged to seek additional sources of information. Electronic information sources including the Internet should be supported by checking in standard printed sources. Cutting and pasting from electronic sources is prohibited, except for brief quotations (less than one per page), which should include a complete citation. Your essay should include notes and bibliography in standard format. For additional information see the linked pages.

1. What factors made Nazi Germany a nuclear threat to the United States in 1939? How had these factors changed by 1945? How did the U.S. rationale for developing nuclear weapons change over the same period?

2. Select any individual who made a major conrtribution to the Manhattan Project. In your essay, explain their reasons for joining the project, the nature of their contribution, and whether (and why) their attitude to the development of nuclear weapons changed after the end of World War II.

3. What were the main technical problems overcome in the course of the Manhattan Project? How many of these factors are relevant to assessing the likelihood that a nation is in a position to construct nuclear weapons in the twenty-first century?

4. When did the Cold War begin? In your answer clarify the meaning of the phrase ‘Cold War', making it clear who the different sides were, and what pattern of activities deserved the name ‘War'. Offer historical reasons that make a particular event or set of events a useful marker for the beginning of this period.

5. What role did espionage play in the Soviet Union's development of nuclear weapons? Was the role the same for both fission and fusion weapons?

6. Who were the main supporters and opponents of developing the 'Super'? What arguments did they offer for their positions? What political and other events influenced the decision to proceed with the project?

7. Open question: If there is a topic connected with this part of the course that you would like to write about, but that does not appear in the list above, you may request permission to write on that topic. Send the instructor a title, brief outline or indication of content, and a list of sources, no later than noon, five days before the essay deadline. If you are authorized to write on the topic you proposed, you must follow all the style and length guidelines specified for research essay.

Submit your essay, as a hard copy, in class, on or before the deadline.